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What does a bodyguard do?
A bodyguard is sometimes called a close protection officer, CPO or personal bodyguard. They protect clients (individuals or groups known as principals) from threats, such as kidnapping, injury, violence, physical attacks, terrorism and other harmful situations. They may also deal with other threats, such as bribery, reputational damage and embarrassing situations.
Bodyguards can specialise in specific clients, such as royals, celebrities, ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) clients, CEOs, government officials, heads of state, etc. They can work in various protection areas, such as property, businesses, residential, lifestyle, events and reputation, across various sectors. They can also work in many locations, including hostile ones. Therefore, what a bodyguard does will depend on their specialisms and where they work.
A bodyguard’s main aim is to ensure their clients and/or their families are secure and safe from harm. They can also protect property, equipment and valuable items from theft and damage. Bodyguards can protect people from life-threatening situations and even save lives.
Bodyguards will carry out many tasks, including protecting clients from various threats, checking out premises and areas and securing them, clearing exits, researching, identifying and preventing potential threats, shadowing clients, remaining alert at all times, transporting clients, etc. The role will also encompass planning and some administrative work.
Bodyguards will work with many people. They may work with other bodyguards, depending on the client, and team leaders, second in command, personal protection operatives and other staff. They will also liaise with external stakeholders, including clients and their families and friends, venue and event staff, members of the public, the police, other security personnel, etc.
Bodyguards can work in different locations, such as clients’ homes and businesses, events, venues and outdoors. Their role can involve extensive travel around the UK and sometimes overseas. They can work for different-sized companies, from large corporate organisations to small private security firms. They can also be self-employed.
A bodyguard’s responsibilities will depend on many factors, including who they work for and their type of role.
Some examples of their day-to-day duties may include (this list is not exhaustive):
- Protecting clients from potential threats, including violence, terrorism, political opponents, over-enthusiastic fans or stalkers.
- Completing risk assessments.
- Minimising the risk to clients by researching potential threats.
- Checking out areas or premises for potential threats, making them secure before clients arrive and clearing exits when they leave.
- Shadowing clients while they carry out their daily activities, including 24-hour surveillance where required.
- Identifying unauthorised people, suspicious behaviour, impending threats and disturbances.
- Preventing potential threats or disruption.
- Remaining alert at all times to react to potential threats.
- Planning safe routes for travelling.
- Transporting clients to and from venues, events and other locations.
- Escorting clients on business and social commitments.
A bodyguard’s working hours are highly variable and will depend on who they work for and their location. Some work over 50 hours a week, so their working days can be extensive.
Their job is not a 9-5 one, and those looking at entering this profession must be committed to working unsociable hours. Some clients want protection 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Therefore, bodyguards may need to work early mornings, evenings, nights, weekends and bank holidays on shift.
Some bodyguards are self-employed, but there are also employed roles. There are options for full-time, permanent and temporary contract work. There may also be options to work flexibly, e.g. job share, hybrid and part-time.
Bodyguards will travel extensively as part of their role, which may involve visiting different sites locally, regionally or nationally. There may also be overseas work opportunities, depending on the clients.
What to expect
Being a bodyguard can be challenging and is not a profession for the faint-hearted, as there are risks. However, there are many positives associated with the role, especially if an individual enjoys working with people and likes travelling.
Being a bodyguard is extremely rewarding. They get to protect clients from various threats which could cause them harm. They can go home at the end of their working day knowing their role makes a significant difference in their clients’ lives. In some cases, they can be life savers.
Jobs are available nationally and internationally. There are employed and self-employed opportunities. With more competence, bodyguards can earn decent salaries, especially when protecting high-end clients and celebrities.
Boredom will never be a problem for bodyguards. They can work with different types of clients, including celebrities, and there are opportunities to travel globally. There are also several specialist areas, e.g. personal, political or celebrity protection.
Even though there are positives to being a bodyguard, there are challenges and cons, e.g.:
- Risks – a bodyguard’s job is to protect clients from harm. They may need to put themselves at risk to achieve this. Therefore, there are inherent risks associated with the role. Bodyguards are at risk of serious injury and even death in some cases, especially in hostile environments. Individuals must be aware of the risks associated with the role. Bodyguards in the UK cannot be armed and carry weapons.
- It is not glamorous – people may think of the bodyguard role as glamorous; perhaps the Kevin Costner film comes to mind. However, it is not all celebrities and excitement. There is a lot of planning and intelligence work and a significant amount of time waiting around.
- Physical demands – being a bodyguard is physically demanding, and individuals will need a good fitness level to do this job. They will be on their feet for most of the working day, and the role involves extensive travel and often working at unsociable hours. The working hours can also be long. Some jobs require bodyguards to work outdoors in all weather and wear protective equipment, which can be hot and uncomfortable.
- Mental demands – being a bodyguard is also mentally demanding. They need to be vigilant at all times, which can be fatiguing. Some clients can also be challenging to deal with and not always cooperate, which can be stressful. Protecting people, especially high-net-worth clients, royals and celebrities, carries significant responsibility, which can be too much for some individuals.
- Time away from home – bodyguards can spend extended periods away from home, and hotel stays are common. It can make it hard to sustain family life, as individuals can miss holidays, occasions and events.
Every career choice has pros and cons, and individuals must know what to expect before deciding whether it is for them. Bodyguards can face many risks, and the role is physically and mentally demanding. It is also not glamorous, and they spend time away from home. However, there are many positives too, and those who become bodyguards enjoy their work as their role makes a significant difference to clients’ lives by keeping them safe.
When considering whether to be a bodyguard and the type of role, individuals should look at the pros and cons. They should also ensure they have the right personal qualities to carry out the role and responsibilities required.
Personal qualities needed to be a bodyguard
Some of the personal qualities a bodyguard requires will include (this list is not exhaustive):
- Knowledge of public safety and security.
- A good level of physical fitness, strength, stamina and endurance.
- Good eyesight and hearing.
- Assertive and confident.
- Patient, committed and selfless.
- Discrete, sensitive, understanding, respectful and confidential.
- Approachable, honest, trustworthy, reliable, ethical and professional.
- Excellent communication skills, especially verbal.
- Excellent judgement skills.
- Excellent organisational and time management skills.
- Observation and surveillance skills.
- Investigation skills.
- Concentration skills.
- Interpersonal skills.
- Leadership skills.
- Thinking and reasoning skills.
- Customer service skills.
- The ability to blend into the background when needed.
- The ability to remain alert for long periods without getting distracted.
- The ability to accept criticism.
- The ability to handle conflict and defuse escalating situations.
- The ability to develop relationships.
- The ability to be flexible and adapt to change.
- The ability to work well under pressure and remain confident and calm in stressful situations.
- The ability to use IT equipment, e.g. computers and hand-held devices, and relevant software packages.
- The ability to work well with others in a team and alone using their own initiative.
Qualifications and training
There are many routes to becoming a bodyguard. Individuals could go to college, enrol on a private training course or apply directly. They could also do work experience to help them enter the role.
Individuals can undertake a course to become bodyguards. They could do a Level 3 Certificate for Working as a Close Protection Operative. They will need four or five GCSEs grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) or equivalent for a Level 3 course.
Individuals should find an approved training provider that offers the Level 3 course listed by the Security Industry Authority.
Courses vary in duration but are usually around 16 days. Individuals will need to pass multiple-choice exams and practical assessments.
It may also be worth enrolling on low-cost online short bodyguard courses to see if a career as a bodyguard would be of interest. That way, if not, it will save an individual a lot of time and trouble.
Courses and qualifications do not guarantee a role as a bodyguard. However, it will demonstrate to employers and companies that an individual is keen on the job and may give them a competitive edge. Always check the entry requirements before applying.
If individuals already have a close protection licence issued by the Security Industry Authority, , they could apply to organisations directly for bodyguard roles. Alternatively, they could contact a recruitment agency that specialises in security roles.
Relevant work experience, either paid or voluntary, can help individuals stand out and build their knowledge and skills.
To gain experience and help them get a job as a bodyguard, they could first get a job as:
- A regular or reserve in the military, especially if wanting to work in hostile environments.
- A special in the police, a police officer or a police community support officer.
- A prison or probation officer.
- A security guard.
- Door security or maritime security.
Individuals could volunteer with charities to learn some required skills, such as communication, customer service, and organisational and time management. They could also look for opportunities in the sector they are interested in, e.g. film, TV, residential and business. There is information on volunteering and local opportunities on Do-IT, NCVO and Volunteering Matters.
Training courses to become a bodyguard
Learning does not stop with experience or once someone becomes qualified. Attending relevant training courses and having additional certifications can help individuals enter the profession, enhance their employability and give them a competitive edge. Many colleges and accredited private training companies can provide relevant training courses.
Some examples of courses that may be useful for individuals looking at a career as a bodyguard include (this list is not exhaustive):
- First aid, including CPR.
- Basic life support.
- Health and safety for employees.
- Fire safety.
- Equality and diversity.
- Work-related stress.
- Risk assessment.
- Violence at work.
- Lone working.
- Conflict management.
- COVID-19 awareness.
- Data protection and the GDPR.
- Complaints handling.
- Customer service skills.
- Time management skills.
- Resilience training.
The British Bodyguard Association and other bodyguarding organisations can also advise on reputable training courses. Some also provide memberships, events and support to help individuals become bodyguards and give those already in the profession the means to continue their professional development.
The type of training required will depend on who an individual works for and their specialisms. It is worth looking at several job advertisements to identify the training needed for roles. Jobs are on websites such as GOV.UK find a job service, BBA Careers, British Security Jobs, Indeed, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and many other sites. Also, look at recruitment agencies and close protection companies.
More relevant training and competence (skills, experience and knowledge) will open up more opportunities for individuals. Refresher training is also advisable as it keeps their knowledge and skills up to date.
Close protection licence
Individuals cannot legally work as a bodyguard in the UK until they have received their close protection licence from the Security Industry Authority (SIA).
To get a licence, individuals must:
- Have a ‘licence-linked’ qualification.
- Apply for a licence at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-an-sia-licence.
- Supply their close protection certificate.
- Prove their identity and meet other eligibility requirements.
- Pay a fee of £190.
- Renew and pay a fee every three years.
Individuals wanting to work in overseas countries must apply for a specific licence/card. For example, to work as a bodyguard in France, individuals will need a professional card issued by the regulator CNAPS.
To become a bodyguard, individuals must:
- Be over 18 years old or 25 years old for some companies.
- Be a certified first-aider.
- Have a right to work in the UK.
- Pass identity and criminal checks.
Criminal records checks
Bodyguards must undergo an enhanced criminal record check.
The organisation that holds criminal records will depend on the country within the UK, for example:
- England and Wales – Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).
- Northern Ireland – AccessNI.
- Scotland – Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme.
Bodyguards will need a full driving licence (preferably with no points), as they will travel to different jobs and transport their clients to and from various destinations.
Where do bodyguards work?
Bodyguards can work in various working environments.
Some examples include (this list is not exhaustive):
- Clients’ homes.
- Clients’ businesses and other places of work.
- Outdoors and indoors in different locations.
- Travelling between places.
- Hostile environments, e.g. warzones.
- Natural disasters.
They can work for different types of public and private organisations and individuals in various sectors, for example (this list is not exhaustive):
- Government officials.
- High-ranking military personnel.
- Political figures.
- Business executives.
- Ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) clients.
- Heads of state.
- High-ranking employees.
- International corporations.
- Other private individuals.
They can also work as a self-employed bodyguard.
How much do bodyguards earn?
A bodyguard’s salary will depend on their role, qualifications, experience, geographical location, employment status, working hours and specialist area. Therefore, their salary is highly variable.
According to Glassdoor, the national average salary for a bodyguard is £33,823. The National Careers Service states £17,000 for starters and £50,000 for experienced bodyguards.
Types of bodyguard roles to specialise in
There are many different types of bodyguard roles in which to specialise, for example (this list is not exhaustive):
- Personal bodyguards – protect various clients, e.g. business leaders, celebrities and VIPs, and their families by personally escorting them to different places. They can even work for private individuals, e.g. those with violent ex-partners or stalkers. What they do is usually tailored to each client.
- Female bodyguards – some clients, especially females, prefer to have female bodyguards, as they can often be more discrete looking. They will carry out various duties as required by their clients.
- Celebrity bodyguards – specialise in protecting celebrities from threats, such as stalkers, over-eager fans, journalists, etc. They can look after clients at their homes and businesses and escort them during their day-to-day activities and to various events and venues.
- Royal bodyguards – these types of bodyguards protect royal families from many different threats, which requires the highest possible level of security. Individuals usually have a military background, although it is not essential. This role will require additional qualifications, skills and personal qualities.
- Executive and VIP bodyguards – specialise in protecting individuals, their businesses and key operations from various threats. They are sometimes also known as corporate bodyguards.
- Child bodyguards – protect children from threats, e.g. kidnapping, from individuals or criminal or terrorist groups. Bodyguards will need additional skills to protect children from harm and work in a family environment.
- Surveillance bodyguards – bodyguards can specialise in surveillance, which involves using various techniques and technologies to gather intelligence and identify potential threats.
- Residential bodyguards – protect individuals and their families, homes, assets and lifestyle. They can provide live-in services and surveillance and protect vacant homes during holidays.
- Driving (Chauffeuring) bodyguards – protect individuals when transporting them to and from various destinations and events. They are also known as private security chauffeurs, and it helps if individuals have a background in chauffeuring.
- Location-specific bodyguards – some bodyguards will escort clients to locations with a higher crime rate and a higher risk to safety and security. They will have more knowledge about the area and can risk assess and plan safer routes.
All specialist bodyguard roles require differing knowledge, skills, experience and qualities. All bodyguards must have a close protection licence and have the right personal qualities to protect their clients.
Any additional areas of expertise will depend on what a company is looking for and an individual’s intended specialist areas. Further qualifications, skills and training may be necessary for specialised roles, and it is worth individuals contacting bodyguarding/close protection companies for advice.
If bodyguards do not do their roles correctly, it can result in clients not feeling secure, safe and happy. In worse cases, they can put their clients, and themselves, at risk of harm. Therefore, whatever the type of role, bodyguards must have the necessary competence to carry out the work professionally and safely. They should also know the limits of their competency and not do anything outside the scope of their training.
Standards, laws, codes, equipment and technologies are regularly changing. Therefore, bodyguards must keep ahead of the latest developments and changes to carry out their roles effectively and correctly. Continuing professional development (CPD) gives bodyguards the knowledge and skills to keep up to date with these changes, understand their responsibilities, and progress in their careers.
Joining the British Bodyguard Association can help prospective and current bodyguards enhance their skills and overall career. They offer different levels of membership, CPD, support and access to industry contacts and networking events.
There is ample opportunity for career progression for bodyguards. With more qualifications and experience, they could specialise in specific clients, such as celebrities and royals, and areas, e.g. residential, driving or surveillance. They could lead a team of bodyguards, be self-employed and even set up their own businesses.
Knowledge, skills and experience gained from working as a bodyguard can also lead to a career in different areas. For example, they could move into security, surveillance or other enforcement roles. Alternatively, they may do risk assessment consultancy or train others to become bodyguards.
Get started on a course suitable for becoming a bodyguard
Lone Working£20 + VAT View course
Assessing Risk (Risk Assessment Course)£20 + VAT View course
Workplace First Aid£20 + VAT View course
Resilience Training£20 + VAT View course
Fire Safety Awareness£20 + VAT View course
Time Management£20 + VAT View course
Health and Safety for Employees£20 + VAT View course
Understanding GDPR£20 + VAT View course